WASHINGTON—While three-quarters or more of those 60 and over have at least one serious health condition, nearly half rate their health as very good or excellent, according to new research from AARP in collaboration with National Geographic Partners. The Second Half of Life Research found that Americans are more likely to take steps to address their health as they get older, including actions like getting health screenings, eating more produce and monitoring their sugar intake. And having more healthy years matters more than simply living longer – most respondents were interested in a hypothetical pill that could slow down aging, but far fewer would take a pill to extend their life by a decade.
The oldest Americans are also some of the happiest: about one in three people 80 and older said they were very happy with their life, compared to just 16% of those ages 40-49. The Second Half of Life Study paired a national survey of adults 18 and older with in-depth interviews to paint a detailed picture of Americans’ outlook on life in the years from 40 to 100, and how those perceptions evolve with each decade.
“The insights in this study demand that we reexamine our assumptions about aging, especially outdated stereotypes around growing older,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP. “Far from being dragged down by worries about their health and finances, adults in their 70s and beyond are optimistic and positive about their lives. They have a clear-eyed view of what it means to age, and they want their final decades of life to be independent and healthy – as they define the terms!”
On the financial front, just over half of adults 70 and older say their financial situation is excellent or very good – but responses vary widely by household income. More than half of those with an income of less than $30,000 per year rate their financial situation as fair or poor, while 60% of those with an income over $100,000 rate their finances as excellent or very good. Among adults who are still working, most want to retire at a younger age than they think they will be able to – a gap that gets smaller with age. Most Americans want and expect to live independently as they age; only in their 80s did more respondents say they would need support to do so.
The Second Half of Life is available to download here. The research, conducted with Heart+Mind Strategies, included an online and CATI panel of 2,580 US adults ages 18+, conducted January 7-28, 2022, and 25 in-depth individual interviews conducted virtually from February 22 to March 4, 2022.
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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.